Recently, we’ve enjoyed watching the swallows and house martens return to their nests around our eaves. There’s something about the construction of our cottage which seems to make it particularly inviting to these amazing birds and last year, we had over 30 nests by the end of the season. The skies outside have certainly become a lot busier and I wonder how many residents we’ll have by the time summer is out!
Coincidentally, We Travel So Far by Laura Knowles and Chris Madden arrived in our local library this week and gleefully we took it home to pair with our Wildlife maps colouring book.
As you can probably guess from the title, this book follows the migration journeys of various animals from around the world. Whether they’re going home to mate, or to spend winter in warmer climates, the book offers an insight into the lives of many incredible creatures that I’m guilty of taking for granted.
For example, I had no idea whatsoever that the humble monarch butterfly was a migratory creature!
The art work is absolutely beautiful – it’s bright and colourful, without being patronising, and accurate whilst maintaining its style.
Adding in the information from the maps colouring book, we were able to build up a pretty good idea of how far things had come in relation to existing journeys that we’ve taken – my kids know how long it takes for us to drive from Scotland to Denmark and we could look at that distance on the map and match it to those the animals had taken. We could also have a look at pictures of countries we know and see which animals we recognised from We Travel So Far.
One of the things I like most about this particular colouring book is that the pages are perforated and blank on the back. They’re ideal for hanging on the wall or on an easel. So often when I’ve coloured gorgeous pictures, I’ve thought about hanging them, only to decide against it on account of the fact I’d have to choose between sides.
Do you have any favourite books about the natural world?
I am yet to meet a child who doesn’t love poetry.
I think the rhythm of it and the almost musical nature of a poem when read aloud is what makes it so very appealing to little people, even if they don’t understand the content. As a result, it’s the ideal medium for introducing books and stories – the pattern of the reader’s voice providing as much enjoyment as the words themselves.
In A Great Big Cuddle – Poems For The Very Young, Michael Rosen manages to distil concepts such as anger and belonging into things a child might relate to, and creates verses about them using the bare bones of language. There’s an Edward Lear-esque element to some of the verses – whimsical and fun, full of opportunities for the reader and listener to play with the text.
Coupled with Chris Riddell’s amazing artwork – did I mention I love his drawings more than a little? – and this is a book that’s very easy to read and enjoy.
Which are your favourite poetry books for children?
This morning, rushing to get out of the door as usual, I turn around and realise that Daughter is still in her nightclothes – stood with bags and coat in hand and utterly absorbed by the Usbourne Lift-the-flap Periodic Table book. Though she had completely forgotten to get dressed, she could now tell me – with no prior chemistry knowledge – that water was a compound of two elements.
All things considered, I’m going to call that a win.
It’s easy to see why Daughter was so focused on the book – it’s brightly coloured, easy to understand and who doesn’t love an informative flap?
Information is broken down into small, manageable chunks and is presented in such a way that chemistry – a subject that even my nerdy teenage self couldn’t stomach for its dryness – is not only interesting, but compelling.
This book strikes the ideal balance between fun and fact – it’s interesting without being heavy and fun without being patronising. For any child with even a passing interest in science, it’s a very worthwhile investment.
Which are your favourite science books for children?
The Street Beneath My Feet, by Charlotte Guillain and Yuval Zommer is an absolute gem of a book.
The format makes it exciting, the art makes it beautiful and the information is presented in such a way that it can be enjoyed by a huge range of ages (parents included).
We’ve had it for a week, and already it’s become a firm favourite.
The book itself is a giant cross-section of the earth, folded in such a way that you can lay it out on the floor…
…Or look at it like a regular book as each side is printed on, showing different things you can see beneath the surface.
To give you an idea of scale, here’s a picture in which I managed to accidentally photograph my foot…
I really love the way that the text draws your attention to different elements within the pictures, and how it’s not at all dry – there’s a lot of humour present.
Which are your favourite science books? I think this one might be mine!
– Farn ❤
One for slightly older children
(me) this time – an amazing collaboration between two of my favourite booky people, Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell.
Odd and the Frost Giants is a coming-of-age story about a viking boy called Odd. His leg is injured during an accident and in a society of warrior-men, he’s very much an outcast. When his father dies and his mother remarries, Odd leaves his family home and makes his way to his father’s hut in the forest where he comes across three peculiar animals – a bear, an eagle and a fox (Thor, Odin and Loki) who have the power of speech.
Using his wits and a great deal of courage, Odd is able to help the trio of gods return to their home in time to save it. Then he returns to his, self-assured enough to deal with his step-father.
I don’t know where to start in praising this book. The pictures are wonderfully detailed without being fussy, atmospheric without being sinister and so, so stylish in black and white. Gaiman and Riddell have worked on many projects together and though I’m sure the writing could hold up on its own, as could the art work, I feel like author and illustrator compliment each other to the point where both are improved in combination.
Truth be told, I bought this book for me and it was an accident that Daughter came to read it. I had it in the back of the car having finished it in the school car-park and on the way home, she pilfered it. Whilst the story itself isn’t an actual Norse myth, it triggered a great interest in the Aesir which we continued by reading Gaiman’s own retellings. Whilst the stories do have some darker sections, they’re not told in a graphic way and Daughter – a precocious reader and overly sensitive six year old – didn’t find them upsetting.
I think that’s what I love most about Gaiman’s work for younger readers – they strike the perfect balance between being suitable for the intended audience and interesting for adults (to the point where I buy them for myself).
Though I suppose that ultimately, that’s what marks a good story – everyone can enjoy it.
Which are your favourite books that have been written with children in mind?